Long-distance migrants, including Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp), can use geomagnetic information to navigate. We tested the hypothesis that a “magnetic map” (i.e., an ability to extract positional information from Earth’s magnetic field) also exists in a population of salmon that do not undertake oceanic migrations. This study examined juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) originally from a nonanadromous population in Maine transferred ∼60 years ago to a lake in central Oregon. We exposed juveniles to magnetic displacements representative of locations at the latitudinal boundaries of the Pacific salmon oceanic range in the North Pacific and at the periphery of their ancestral oceanic range in the North Atlantic. Orientation differed among the magnetic treatments, indicating that Atlantic salmon detect map information from the geomagnetic field. Despite no recent history of ocean migration, these fish displayed adaptive orientation responses similar to those observed in native Pacific salmonids. These findings indicate that use of map information from the geomagnetic field is a shared ancestral character in the family Salmonidae and is not restricted to populations with anadromous life histories. Lastly, given that Atlantic salmon are transported throughout the world for capture fisheries and aquaculture, such a robust navigational system is of some concern. Escaped individuals may have greater potential to successfully navigate, and thus invade, introduced habitats than previously suspected.

Authors: Michelle M. Scanlan, Nathan F. Putman, Amanda M. Pollock, David L. G. Noakes

Scanlan, M; Putman, N.F.; Pollock, A.; Noakes, D.L
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Source (Journal Article): 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 3, 2018
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5 pages